Sorcery of Youth

By Alixe Wallis

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For these four Gilbert & Sullivan members, one of the advantages of joining the Society is that it keeps them young.

Adrian Sly, Derek Ellis, George Morfitt and Rick Underwood are all committed to the demanding schedule of putting on *The Sorcerer*, Gilbert & Sullivan's first full-length collaboration. It's the tale of a sleepy little village where life is predictable until John Wellington Wells, a.k.a. the Sorcerer, douses them with a love potion.

Adrian Sly was cast in this pivotal role. "This will be my third involvement, having sung it 37 years ago while living in Montreal and 27 years ago in Halifax and now finally I'll play the Sorcerer himself! Singing is a wonderful work-out," says Adrian, "and, as I get older, I find [my] voice becoming even stronger."

Not only does he love the challenge of singing, but the process of co-ordinating stage movements with the rhythm of the music.

"Keeping in character while singing and dancing certainly keeps the mind totally focused - and while it's great fun, it's definitely therapeutic as well."

As for turning professional, Adrian admits it's a path he chose not to follow. "Then I wouldn't have had anything to do as a hobby!"

If keeping mentally fit is a goal, then join the G & S Society – according to Derek Ellis who plays the part of the Village Bobby in the production. With a lifelong fondness for singing, starting as a choirboy, it wasn't until five years ago, at the age of 75, that Derek auditioned for a G & S operetta.

He thought a Gilbert and Sullivan melody would be most appropriate, but then failed the audition. Undaunted, he requested another try and, with a strong number from *My Fair Lady*, nailed the performance. "Then," he says, "I took singing lessons and was shown the correct way of shaping my mouth and how to achieve maximum volume with proper breath control. One of the great side-effects of using all these techniques is that your overall stamina improves, as well as voice quality."

"Furthermore,” laughs Derek, "we're all encouraged to flirt - but only in the context of the opera where a magic potion makes the villagers fall in love with the first person they see." And indeed, what could be more invigorating than that!

George Morfitt, who served as B.C.'s Auditor General for two terms, claims that different parts of the brain come into play when performing. After a full and rewarding career both in business and government, he took up the five-string left-handed banjo, which he'd always wanted to play. Quite a stretch from the world of facts and figures - but his brain loved it!

The role of the Notary was the one that most interested George, and he plays the character of an aging official lucky enough to draw the attention of a beautiful young charmer after both sip the magic potion. "That's the fun of this group," he adds. "It maintains one's youthful spirit while making lasting friendships with people young or old who share the same interests." And last, but not least, George still feels energized after three hours of rehearsals three days a week.

In fact, everyone contributes hundreds of hours to the building and painting of sets, making costumes, doing make-up and co-ordinating schedules, all with the express desire of putting on the best show possible. Conductor Rick Underwood co-ordinates the music, working alongside Stage Director Wendy Merk and Choreographer Scott Vannan. This production also brings the added dimension of the Canadian Pacific Ballet.

"We only have one rehearsal with the entire cast before the production - and there's no turning back after the dress rehearsal! It's quite a feat of co-ordination," admits Rick. "And I'm happy to say that so far nothing has ever gone wrong!"

After teaching music for 33 years, Rick became even more involved in Victoria's music scene. "What does retirement mean?" he asks. "Whatever it is - I love it! I can do what I want whenever I want. I can turn my attention to things I love and, needless to say, Gilbert & Sullivan is a highlight!"

So, make a date to find out what transpires in this engagingly convoluted tale set 140 years ago, when a small village encounters sorcery, spells and general mayhem.




The Sorcerer - with special guest the Canadian Pacific Ballet
March 13 & 20, 8 p.m. and March 14 & 24, 2 p.m. at Charlie White Theatre, Mary Winspear Centre, Sidney
Adults $31; Seniors $29; Students and Children $20
Tickets Box Office 250-656-0275

March 27, 8 p.m. and March 28, 2 p.m. at McPherson Theatre, Victoria
Adults $37; Seniors $35; Students and Children $20
Tickets Box Office 250-386- 6121
For more info, visit

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